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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 551
Paragraph Numbers 7 to 22
The case of Ntombikayise Priscilla Khubeka
7. Six members of the Terrorism Investigation Section of the Port Natal Security Branch and two C1/Vlakplaas operatives applied for amnesty for their role in the abduction, death and subsequent disposal of the body of Ms Ntombikayise Priscilla Ngcobo (née Khubeka) in April or May 1987.
8. Ms Khubeka lived in KwaMashu, a township to the north of Durban, and was suspected of acting in a co-ordinating capacity between external and internal units of MK. She was allegedly responsible for the storage of weaponry, organising safe-houses and collecting intelligence on possible MK targets.
9. Two C1/Vlakplaas askaris, Xola Frank Mbane and one Dube, part of a C1 team under the command of Captain Adriaan David Baker working with the Port Natal Security Branch, were tasked with making contact with her. This they successfully did. Mr Mbane, who did not apply for amnesty, alleged that their infiltration efforts resulted in the entrapment and killing of three MK combatants. This was denied by all applicants.
10. In April or May, possibly two months after the operation had commenced, Mr Mbane drove Ms Khubeka to Battery Beach. She was abducted by the Port Natal team, blindfolded, possibly bound and taken to an abandoned shooting range at Winkelspruit, south of Durban. Still blindfolded, she was then subjected to interrogation by a team consisting of Colonel Andy Taylor, Captain Hentie Botha, Sergeant Laurie Wasserman, Sergeant Cassie van der Westhuizen, Joe Coetzer and Warrant Officer ‘Bossie’ Basson.
11. During the interrogation, which was conducted largely in Zulu by Colonel Taylor, he struck Ms Khubeka across the back with a sjambok. According to Captain Botha, this was not a severe assault but intended to convey the gravity of the situation and persuade her to co-operate with them:
CHAIRPERSON: Did he hit her hard with this sjambok? MR BOTHA: Chairperson, I would say yes, he hit her hard; but the blows with the sjambok were not the type of blows which would be dealt to grievously injure the person. It was to indicate, ‘I’m serious with what I’m asking you to do now’ … MR LAX: How could he hit her hard and not hurt her? MR BOTHA: I’m trying to describe that the degree of the blow was not to the extent that it was taken out and hit hard in comparison to a form of torture. It was more to indicate: ‘I’m hitting you in order to prove a serious point.’
12. While Botha testified that the interrogation lasted approximately fifteen to twenty minutes and that Taylor struck her approximately ten to fifteen times with the sjambok, Sergeant van der Westhuizen’s testimony suggests an interrogation of about an hour. Both these accounts were disputed by askari Mbane who alleged that the interrogation lasted for about two hours and, although he was outside, he could hear ‘screams of pain’.
13. Botha and other applicants testified that, during the course of the interrogation, Ms Khubeka agreed to co-operate with them, but that:
She then suddenly began to gasp for breath, grabbed her chest and fell over. While her body was shaking, she urinated and within seconds lay dead still. I was frightened and someone went to fetch water outside and poured it on her because we thought that she had fainted. She did not respond to the water which I splashed on her face. She had no pulse rate and W/O Basson brought a mirror and held it in front of her mouth. There was no breath. I realised that she was dead, possibly from a heart attack. Khubeka was physically a big woman and in my opinion overweight.
14. According to the applicants, they then decided to dump her body in the vicinity of her home and tasked Sergeants Wasserman and Salman Gerhardus du Preez to do this. This decision was informed by the fact that she had died of natural causes and they thus expected that no foul play would be indicated by a post mortem examination. Inexplicably, however, her body was dumped that night somewhere near the Bhambayi informal settlement, some distance away from her home.
15. Later Captain Botha established that her family was unaware of her death and appeared to believe that she had gone into exile. It was subsequently rumoured that she had left the country for Mozambique because of the attentions of the Security Branch.
16. However, the version given by the applicants was seriously challenged when the Commission’s Investigative Unit exhumed remains believed to be Ms Kubeka’s from a pauper’s grave at Charlottedale Cemetery, Stanger. After the exhumation, DSR Naidoo of the SAP Medico-Legal laboratory conducted a post-mortem examination of the remains, concluding that they matched those of Ntombi Khubeka. In addition, a spent 7.65 bullet fell from the skull, indicating that she had been shot in the head. This was contrary to the perpetrators’ account of her death.
17. An attempt to use DNA testing from samples of bone and teeth failed as these had deteriorated and could not be used for DNA typing. The skull was then sent to Dr P Venezis, Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine and Science and Head of Department at the University of Glasgow, a recognised authority on a facial identification technique that entails the use of video superimposition.
18. Dr Venezis concluded that the skull-to-photo superimposition he carried out revealed an excellent match in all respects with the photographs examined.
I am satisfied that there is an excellent match between the photographs examined and the skull in question and I am of the view therefore that it is highly likely that the skull is part of the remains of Ntombi Kubheka.
19. The applicants challenged these findings and demanded that another expert, based at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria, examine the skull.
20. Sergeant TM Briers of this laboratory concluded that:
All the above landmarks have been taken into consideration and it is found that the skull and face on both photographs are consistent with each other. No contradictions were found.
21. The applicants did not challenge Brier’s conclusions, although they continued to contest the results of the investigation. In reviewing the evidence, the Amnesty Committee found the forensic evidence ‘compelling’:
What is striking in the final analysis is that, in our view, all the above aspects taken together point to the inescapable conclusion that the body exhumed from the grave at Charlottedale Cemetery, Stanger, is in fact that of the deceased, Ntombikayise Priscilla Khubeka.
22. Applicants Botha, Du Preez, Wasserman and Van der Westhuizen were refused amnesty for failing to make full disclosure. Applicants Radebe and Baker, who had not been present during the interrogation or involved in the disposal of the body, were granted amnesty for her abduction.2322 See Volume Tw o, Chapter Six, p p. 5 4 3 ,5 4 5 . 23 The Amnesty Committee made no finding on Applicant Roelof Visagie as he was outside South Africa at the time of the hearing and did thus not give evidence. Given the disputed evidence, the Committee felt it was not able to dispose of his application in chambers.